My generation was right on the cusp of this transition- the transition to feeling entitled. When I was a few years into the workforce (but still pretty new), I suddenly felt quite old. While I wasn’t much older than the “college kids” joining the workforce (literally only a few years older), I was noticing a big discrepancy in our attitudes. I felt like I was worlds apart from understanding them. These newbies did only what was expected of them- if that. Never did they go above and beyond, work late, take on extra responsibility, or take a proactive approach to learning and growing in their role. I noticed that these individuals expected to be rewarded for their efforts, even though they were pitiful efforts and merely doing what they were supposed to do to earn their salary. They wanted bonuses, recognition letters, free lunch days, and more. Again, all for doing the bare minimum. In addition to this, they seemed to be needed to be told what to do at all times. If they finished something early (before being told what to do next), they either did nothing, or asked what they should do. It didn’t occur to them to figure it out. To learn and problem solve. Or to do extra. Several years later, I found myself switching from my engineering role into teaching high school chemistry. What I had seen in the workforce, was multiplied times 10 at the high school level. I made it my expectation to try and teach my students some much needed “real world lessons”.
Now, as a mother, with these memories looming over my head, I am making a sure fire plan to make sure my daughter grows up and resembles a work ethic closer to that of my generation and generations past. My goal is to raise children that are problem solvers. To raise children that are hard working, proactive, humble, gracious, and eager to learn. To raise children that do their best at all times so they can be proud of their accomplishments. To raise children that are grateful. To raise children that have goals, and want to achieve more in life. To raise children that know they always have room for improvement, and that strive to find paths towards that improvement. To raise leaders.
As I think about the young generations and try to problem solve and figure out what changes have taken place to allow such behavior to become so common, I am drawn to a few observations:
– Include everyone approach. Instead of teaching our children to include others naturally and consider everyone’s feelings, we’ve taken to a mandatory include everyone approach. Suddenly, all students in a class HAVE to be invited to a birthday party. What happened to simply teaching our children to be respectful about things like this? How about teaching them, to not discuss a party in front of someone that isn’t invited because of how it might make them feel? Or having real conversations about who is invited and why? Why aren’t we simply focusing on the consideration of others’ feelings? We are missing out on so many important conversations with our children now, because everyone is automatically included. And on the flip side, everyone expects to be included and feels entitled to this because that’s just how it is nowadays. This is far from how things worked when I was young.
– Everyone wins and gets a trophy. Did your team lose? That’s ok, you get a participation trophy! Did you submit a half-assed essay that you didn’t even proof-read because you expected your computer to do that for you? That’s ok, you get a passing grade and a star! Children don’t know what it is to fail and have to pick themselves back up. They don’t know what it is to work harder and harder and harder. They don’t know what it is to have to work to succeed. We push our education with standardized tests that require more “knowledge” (fact based regurgitation) then ever, yet our standards of expectation and consequences have declined rapidly.
– Information is on hand in a moments notice. Technology is to blame for some things, and this is one of them. Unfortunately, it is just a natural consequence of having amazing technology at our disposal. Young generations have grown up with cell phones and tablets from birth! My 2 year old does educational games on the iPad and knows how to use the apps better than I do, with less experience. Don’t get me wrong, the technology is great! My 2 year old is learning an incredible amount from these games that she wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. How we are using the technology is the issue. High school students are so used to looking up information, they’ve never been taught how to figure things out, and problem solving has taken a back seat.
– Reward systems have become overused. There is a time and a place for rewards systems. The only time a reward system should be in place, is when a behavior or skill is being learned. Once the skill is mastered, it should become an expectation. We used a sticker chart with our daughter when she was being potty trained. Now that she’s potty trained, she doesn’t get a sticker every time she poops. It sure feels like the young generation wants a sticker for every poop. Rewards should not be given when the only thing that has been accomplished is meeting expectation.
So, in my quest to start my daughter off on the right foot, I’ve come up with 5 crucial lessons to start teaching her asap:
1. It’s ok to be bored. This is where creativity and problem solving skills are born. I started this as a baby by incorporating independent play time into my daughters day. We make sure to have days where we stay home and have to find things to do as well. In addition to this, my daughter has rest time after her nap. She sits quietly in her bed until it is time to come out of her room. She gets some much needed creative play and extra rest as a result.
2. Pick yourself up. I let my daughter fall (obviously nothing too dangerous, and I try and give her a heads up), but the reality is that infants learning to walk fall. Toddlers have bodies that can’t keep up with their minds- they fall. She picks herself back up. I hesitate just long enough for her to assess the situation on her own. I ask if she’s ok and don’t make a big deal. I encourage her to stand up. I encourage her to tell me if something hurts. I show her what happened, and she does a little better the next time. The next time she catches her fall. It’s amazing to see what babies and toddlers are capable of- if you let them.
3. It’s ok to be frustrated. Learn how to calm yourself down, focus on the issue at hand, and problem solve. As a young toddler, I am teaching my daughter ways to calm herself down (taking deep breaths, squeezing her hands), and I am helping her to regain her focus. I also tell her that it’s ok to feel frustrated, because it is! It is going to happen to her. I offer a hug, but more importantly I’m teaching her ways to calm herself down. Mama won’t always be there. These are such important skills.
4. Sometimes you are going to lose. Mama wins races, and games, and can jump higher. She’d be in for a rude awakening if she went into the world thinking she’d never lose, and even worse if she had no idea what it felt like to lose. Do I let her win sometimes to boost her confidence? Absolutely. Just not all the time. I would be doing her a disservice.
5. Meeting expectations does not equal reward. While you are learning a skill or behavior, I am all for using sticker charts, and rewards! Once the skill is mastered, the reward needs to be taken away, and natural consequences need to be implemented if the expectation is not met going forward. And yes, this applies even at the young age of 2, but gets even more important as the child gets older.
It is so important as parents to prepare our children for the real world. We have to prepare them for the day that we aren’t by their side. We need to prepare them for their college professors, bosses, and unplanned circumstances that arrive in life. They need to know that they will fail at things, and they need to know how to bounce back from that failure. They need to know to work hard, and to have high expectations of themselves. They need to know that at the end of the day, their actions speak loudly and there are no excuses that will get them through life. They need to know how to handle things, and that Mama and Daddy aren’t always their to clean up the pieces or prevent the pieces from being broken in the first place. Our children need to learn independence, strength, kindness and gratitude. We have a responsibility to teach our children the hard lessons, so they don’t have to learn them from someone else.
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